14 May 2010

More than just Biology Credit in Belize

Education involves more than simply memorizing rhetoric and compiling flawless APA style papers. The material can leave an entirely different impression upon one person’s mind depending on the environment surrounding them. I have discovered that one topic approached in the Czech Republic has an entirely different focus in Germany, although the countries are close and cultures relatively similar.

Although, my recent trip to Central America actually connected various traditions I have observed in Southeast Asia. I have spent a total of four months in Southeast, mainly Cambodia, teaching English and Computer skills to indigenous youth. At first it was simply the climate of Belize that brought me back to Southeast Asia. Any frustrations I had towards the tourist aspects of this trip were calmed by the warm breeze carrying a sweet sugar cane scent through our bus.

As soon as I could interact with locals around San Jose Succotz, in the Cayo district of Belize, my mind began to race with previous experiences. I tried to clear them so new perspectives could be let in from this tropical culture, but even those seemed reminiscent of Southeast Asia. It was not that I held onto traditions discovered in my past visits to the tropical climate of Southeast Asia; only that this culture was extremely similar to the other.

The people of Belize melded with the environment surrounding them just as smoothly as those in Cambodia. They came from an agricultural background and passed down knowledge of using nature for their benefit, while still preserving its resources, through many generations. Their ancestors had already faltered from misusing the land and now it common sense to comingle with the environment, rather than dominate for a short time.

This devastation from human’s arrogantly taking advantage of natural resources was extremely apparent within the landscape of Guatemala. Pastures stretched for miles along the roadside to provide grazing areas for beef cattle that will eventually be shipped around the world. Gorgeous fields of Banana trees balanced these wide open stretches spotted with cattle. Although I was excited to be in a more familiar culture, the sight of this commercial land-use outweighed any joy. Grazing pastures and fruit tree plantations are the main causes for deforestation in tropical areas.

We had to stop numerous times for work crews widening the main highway to permit easier access for dump trucks. I find this quite ironic because in Southeast Asia, the Chinese have paid for road work to enable their dump trucks access to precious gems and plantations; however, these same trucks have created more potholes and landslides than were previously seen on the dirt roads. The environment does not quickly bounce back from these offenses.

Nature does triumph in the end though, as was seen all over the Mayan temples of Tikal. These massive structures have nearly returned to the earth around them despite the efforts of humans to restore their luster. The same situation occurred with Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia. When humans overused the natural resources they were forced to abandon the city and allow the forest to rebuild. They lost details of their city under the forest canopy for centuries; only now is it apparent how different these two tropical regions really are.

Angkor was preserved by the forest, except a few Strangler Figs crushing down through stone walls; however, Tikal nearly crumbled under the dirt of the forest. Now humans are uncovering and preserving Tikal for future generations to enjoy its glory. Yet, the structures of Angkor have been mistreated by tourism. The Cambodians had attempted to clean every bit of nature off these structures to reveal exquisite details for others to view, but did not realize that these bits of nature were the structures only protection against erosion. Now they are limiting human contact with the surfaces and attempting to reconstruct a few buildings that collapsed after being cleaned. The powerful effects of nature cannot be avoided and each country has learned to respect them over time.

The locals were full of other stories in which nature dominated arrogant humans who had blindly led others to their end. Although none were as poignant as the modern examples seen daily throughout my trip, whether in farmlands of Guatemala or along the rivers of Belize, humankind’s impact was too obvious. Their consequences are fast approaching and must be realized as part of reality before future generations are faced with them.

I have not dismissed every bit of information relating to biology during this trip, but rather added to it throughout my experience. These new cultures blended with my previous ideologies to form a rich educational encounter that will not be forgotten. I only hope that others who can this opportunity will make changes to preserve the environment and connect, rather than dominate whatever resources are available.

17 January 2010

please continue supporting IYDP/IDEAS by buying my postcards....http://www.etsy.com/shop/9lines2cross

Article in the Chronicle

My roommate invited me to attend the Concordia bachelor auction in the spring of 2008, my first semester attending the school. It seemed like an entertaining event that could break the monotony of classes and work. After sharing a few laughs as women challenged each other in bidding wars and men showed off a bit, I wondered when the female equivalent would be held. I was shocked to discover that Concordia was this traditional in student activities, especially in Portland.
My previous college that I had attended before Concordia held a co-ed auction. Even my high school had both sexes represented during auctions and pageants. Mr. SHS was balanced with a Ms. SHS and only had issues when students made t-shirts proclaiming themselves as “snohos”.
After speaking with the specific staff positions relating to student events of this nature, I began to lose hope. Although I could take the issue to ASCU they would not have the ultimate authority to make official changes. I decided to try again the next semester this auction was held and I was actually in the country.
The main issue that I would like to address is how a double-standard is being upheld with this auction only including men. Not even the notion of students attaching too many emotions on the date they are bidding upon really irks me. That is actually kind of understandable, since Concordia is one of those Christian colleges that half-consciously encourages students to be coupled up.
The embarrassing acts that men performed to attract dates and demean themselves are what bothered me when I last attended the auction. It is true that the mainstream American society is more comfortable in approaching male sexuality from a humorous position. However, women are continually show-cased as being extremely sexual creatures that even rank and compare themselves. Both unhealthy views toward sexuality are harmful to a person’s ego and should be avoided when holding an auction of this type.
This unequal depiction shown in the fashion world, movies and music throughout America can only change when the society as a whole follows different opinions. Equalizing all events throughout society without attaching sexual connotations to the people involved. Auctions should not place any person in an objectifying situation regardless of their gender.
Many schools and charity organizations have done this by holding co-ed auctions for group dates or service events. The first three items that appear when one searches for “bachelorette auctions” on the internet are co-ed auctions. These events around the nation are seeking volunteers to auction themselves off for charity.
They often require the purchase of an expensive ticket even to attend. Such as, the Sacramento “Up for Bid” held in mid-September that cost thirty-five dollars for individual tickets. These profits cover the costs to hold the event and an immense amount for charity. When bidders purchase the ticket they are reminded what intentions are placed upon this event and their money.
Upon entering the Guys and Dolls auction for Cystic Fibrosis guests receive a flyer that includes a bio of each bachelor and bachelorette, rules to how the bids will be received, and details surrounding the date. They are very specific as to holding the date in a public place and advertising the day it will occur to avoid many safety concerns. When I attended Concordia’s auction the bachelors were responsible for arranging the date and time of their date with the bidder. It seems to me that many issues could be avoided if guidelines were set before the auction. Concordia should be responsible for maintaining a secure atmosphere for their students no matter what gender they are.
There are many unexpected emotions and insecurities that may arise after many possibilities in holding an equal and safe auction for the bachelors, bachelorettes, and bidders are accounted for. I can only think that people will have to deal with these things as they come. The only bit of advice relating to this issue, even just for the bachelor auction, would be to remember that this is just a fun event for charity. Students should not place too much pressure on the bachelor or bidder to uphold their end of the bargain. They do not have any specific contract with obligations towards each other. Each date is just a fun outing that was purchased for charity.
That is actually another point that seems to be lost during the hilarious entertainment surrounding this auction. All of the money being raised is for charity! The amount of money spent on a participant should not be taken too personally. Especially since Concordia is such a tight community of friends who do not always happen to be wealthy. There is way too much pressure placed on the bid amount that could negatively affect the bachelor or bachelorette. However, if either does take this number personally it is their own issue to solve and not the school’s fault. It is ridiculous to assume that Concordia can protect each and every student’s self-esteem throughout the duration of the school year. So why place so much emphasis on this one auction?

just a bit late...

I must apologize for not posting anything after setting this up towards the beginning of fall. I had planned to continue posting articles from the Concordia newspaper, or at least random thoughts that occurred throughout my routine. However, my routine began to possess the majority of my time despite my stubborn fights to relax amongst friends. Rather than being able to enjoy their company, I found myself exhausted after a full day of work and classes. My mind even began to quite down as it craved the comfort of silent pillows. Now that another insane semester has finally come to an end after endless papers, tests, espresso shots and tubes of paint to bring some relief; I can find a break to fill everyone in on the thoughts that have returned with fervor!

It is quite a strange phenomenon actually. After spending a completely blank day in front of several videos, it was nearly impossible to halt the verbal assault brought on within myself. It appears that I had been hibernating for those months of superficial interactions with fellow coffee drinkers. It could also just have been my high level of daily caffeine intake acting as a sedative for once. The later theory is probably more realistic, but achieving a functional subconscious state is not entirely impossible. 

Ladislav Klima even held this state above any that could be found within a conscious one. He treasured supposed dreams as being more realistic connections that require a higher level of intelligence to fully attain. Bits of this could be plausible. If one attempts the focus required for lucid dreaming, that can bring a more insightful perspective to thoughts often just discussed in the waking state, they may already possess a level of intelligence above the average reality. 

SO now I will post some of the articles...hope they are enjoyed. I miss you all and wish we could meet up and simply discuss everything in person.

07 January 2010

Cambodia Fundraiser

Please check out my postcards on ETSY that will be sold in attempts to raise funds for a return trip to teach in Cambodia and aid the youth I work with in any way possible. I will be posting vintage clothes, hand knit scarves and various Cambodian crafts soon.

peace and love,